Tiger population in Greater Mekong 'on the brink': WWF
Tuesday, January 26, 2010 3:32 AM
BANGKOK, Jan. 26, 2010 (Kyodo News International) -- The tiger population in the Greater Mekong region has plunged by more than 70 percent in 12 years, the World Wildlife Fund conservation group said in a report Tuesday, blaming the decline on the tigers' dwindling habitat and an increased demand for tiger body parts in traditional Chinese medicine.
In a report titled ''Tigers on the Brink: Facing up to the Challenge in the Greater Mekong,'' the WWF said the tiger population in the Mekong Delta countries, including Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, has fallen to 350 from 1,200 in 1998.
1998 was the last Year of the Tiger under the 12-year Chinese zodiac cycle.
The WWF report said an increasing demand for tiger body parts used in traditional Chinese medicine and habitat fragmentation due to unsustainable infrastructure development in the region have driven down the tiger population in Southeast Asia.
Nick Cox, coordinator of the WWF Greater Mekong Tiger Program, urged countries in the region to protect their tiger populations by taking serious action.
''There is a potential for tiger populations in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia to become locally extinct by the next Year of the Tiger in 2022, if we don't step up actions to protect them,'' he said.
Despite the decline in the tiger population, the WWF said the Mekong region contains the largest combined tiger habitat in the world.
The WWF report came as officials from tiger range countries will hold the first ministerial meeting on tiger conservation in the Thai resort of Hua Hin from Wednesday to Friday.
Thai Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti said the participants will discuss the situation in the region as the tiger population has dramatically decreased over 10 years.
He said it is time for tiger range countries to seriously consider protection of the tiger population.
The Asian Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation to be held in Hua Hin will bring together representatives from the 13 tiger range countries -- Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam.
The ministerial conference will be followed by a Global Tiger Summit to be held in Russia in September.